Sure, the weather outside is frightful, but these guys make eating outdoors worth it. Here are our picks for the best new food trucks in town, offering affordable, adventurous Austin dining.
Crossroads Farm to Truck
Globetrotting couple Danielle and Wayne Van Steen settled in Austin to open this trailer that specializes in farm-to-truck fare. Originally from the East Coast, the duo lived in Portland, Thailand, and Los Angeles before bringing their internationally influenced fare with a healthy approach to the Zilker Food Park. They shop at farmers’ markets and source ingredients from local producers like Richardson Farms, Johnson's Backyard Garden, and Texas Olive Ranch to craft a varied and tasty menu with gorgeous presentations.
We like the hearty braised Cuban chicken bowl, tossed in a citrusy mojo and garnished with cherry tomatoes, radish slices, red beans, smoked corn, pickled jalapeños, cilantro, and crispy house-made chicharrones (also available as a snack), served over white rice. The juicy burger features house-made bacon, garlic aioli, bread and butter pickles, Tillamook cheddar, fresh greens, and tomato, cradled amid a homemade Portuguese sweet bun. The menu changes seasonally, and current specials are taking advantage of the summer bounty. Perhaps you’ll find blueberry basil lemonade, peach mint popsicles, or a refreshing vegetable salad, plus plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. We wouldn’t be surprised if these humble beginnings lead to a successful brick-and-mortar in the future.
Austin’s first Dominican food purveyor opened recently in a trailer on East Cesar Chavez, offering Caribbean fare made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Chef-owner Melvin Mendez grew up in the Dominican Republic but moved to New York City as a teenager, where he studied culinary arts at Monroe College in the Bronx. He uses his training in classic French cuisine and mingles it with his childhood memories to create Austin-ized versions of classic Dominican foods.
Signature items include handmade beef, chicken, and vegetable empanadas with dough prepared from scratch. Additionally, they serve Dominican specialties like pasteles en hoja (similar to tamales); pernil asado (roasted pork shanks); a variety of guisados and salads; and beverages like tropical fruit juices and morir soñando, a traditional summer beverage which is like a liquid dreamsicle.
LeRoy & Lewis
This hot new truck located in the parking lot of Infinite Monkey Theorem winery serves a rotating menu of “new-school” barbecue and seasonally inspired sides. Award-winning pitmaster Evan LeRoy’s menu focuses on whole animal butchery and locally sourced ingredients, serving alternative cuts of meat not frequently seen at traditional barbecue joints. All sauces, sides, and desserts are made from scratch.
On a recent visit we enjoyed melt-in-your-mouth, peppery Wagyu burnt ends, perfectly smoked chicken with a creamy and tangy Alabama white barbecue sauce, and a superb barbacoa taco topped with fresh onions, cilantro, sliced avocado, and a green salsa best described as "wowza." Although not huge fans of sauce on our ‘cue, LeRoy & Lewis’ beet barbecue sauce is worth a dip or two, and the BLT salad is not to be missed. Heading the front of the house operations is Sawyer Lewis, former general manager at Contigo. She is working on building community partnerships and bringing LeRoy & Lewis' goodness to a number of food-centric events around town.
The man whose vision turned the Whip In from convenience store to acclaimed neighborhood beer, wine, and Indian fusion mecca is at it again. Dipak Jay and business partner Ian Clark are dishing delectable tacos con chutney from a trailer at the Manchaca Food Mart. Named after characters from The Big Lebowski, these Texas-meets-Gujarat creations come in your choice of flour or corn tortillas, but they can be served atop baby spinach for a few bucks extra.
We have pretty much tasted all of them, and so far we love The Dude (organic Windy Hill goat, poblano chutney, cucumber-jalapeño pico, and feta); The Walter (mushrooms, tomatillo chutney, spinach, and feta); and The Jackie, featuring Richardson Farms pork chorizo seasoned with chile guajillo, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, and other exotic spices. Current specials include The Maude, shrimp ceviche dusted with sesame seeds (great on spinach!), and The Johnson, featuring seasonal JBG veggies and chutney. If you like things spicy, ask for a side of the exotic hot sauce, and whatever you do, try The Jesus: Austin Slowburn queso topped with cilantro chutney. Wash it all down with a brew from the taps inside the mart.
Many local breweries host food trucks, and most of them are good, but we think this may just be the best pairing out there. Soursop’s fresh and spicy cuisine is the perfect companion to St. Elmo Brewing’s refreshing offerings. Owner Teddy Bricker and sous chef Dillon Misonznick dish out Thai fusion fare for dinner, late night, and brunch. The team is taking familiar items like queso and giving them a twist by serving them with five-spice onion jam, chili crisp, fried shallots, herbs, and shrimp chips (can be made vegetarian by request), or whole wings coated in a sambal made from Thai chiles, palm sugar, fish sauce, and coconut vinegar, dusted with chopped peanuts and fried mint leaves.
On Wednesday nights they serve Tom Kha soup dumplings until sold out. A more exotic dish, the Tiki Tteok pairs buttery pork belly chunks with toothsome tteok rice cakes, yu choy, and napa cabbage in a savory citrus-soy glaze decked with a pineapple ring, chili crisps, and a paper umbrella.
Nashville hot chicken arrives in Austin via this trailer from Harold Marmulstein, executive chef and owner of Salty Sow, in tandem with prolific Austin restaurateurs Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso. The chef uses all-natural chicken sourced in Texas, which is tumbled in seasoned flour, fried, and coated in a special secret blend of seasonings. The crispy, juicy chicken is then dipped in a choice of four chef-made sauces: Wimpy, Hot, Dang Hot, and Fire in the Hole (yes, it is that hot, but oh-so-addicting!), making for some of the best fried chicken in our fair city today.
White meat offerings include the O.G. Classic Chicken, sandwiched in a homemade, semi-sweet bun topped with kale slaw, bread-and-butter pickles, and Duke’s mayonnaise, and chicken tips served with excellent chicken fat shoestring fries, but we are partial to the flavorful dark meat chicken oysters, which you can also get over a tasty kale Caesar salad. For those who don’t like it hot, the menu includes mild sauce like sweet chili yogurt and cilantro mint.
South Texas native Miguel Cobos and family run this amazing taco truck in Hyde Park behind the Pronto Food Mart. These guys have the most legit tacos al pastor and tacos de bistek anywhere, served on fresh corn tortillas made to order. They also serve breakfast tacos on homemade flour tortillas, accompanied by excellent salsas.
The trailer is currently open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:30 to 11 am and 5 to 10 pm, and will be adding lunch hours in a few weeks. They also participate in events around the city and on occasion at Independence Brewery. They are experts at catering taquizas (taco parties) for large groups, and they even do breakfast taco delivery to offices and events.